17 December 2014

Peace on Earth



One of the most quoted scriptures during Advent is the message the angles carried to shepherds tending their flocks outside Bethlehem:  Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men."

Two thousand years later, while some still hope for peace, it seems an elusive concept in so much of the world.  And where violence doesn't shadow the hope of peace, the busy-ness of life, angst, greed, and what-have-you tends to steal the peace that is ours for the asking.  We must only seek it in the One whose coming was wrapped in its message.  Too often, in many churches, we don't even bother with the hope for peace, much less in being peacemakers as is found in the Beatitudes, because we feel somehow the reality of sin and our disconnection with those who do not profess Christ, provides a waiver from our responsibility to this world.  A world that needs to know the peace of God....I should hope that we're not so broken a vessel to carry that message.


For a few generations the words "Peace on Earth" hung near the top of my grandfather's barn.  His family, who left the Amish church, did not know war until he served in the Pacific theater during World War II.  Was it any wonder after his service ended that he should have that message proclaimed from on high?  When the farm left the family, my mom noticed the words had disappeared from the barn, so she stopped and asked the owner if he had kept them.  He did, and they found their way to our home.


About 10 years ago we used the words, and our kids, to send the message of "peace on earth" on our Christmas cards.  When we arrived in the country, I think my mom thought they'd be placed on our barn.  Instead, we had the perfect place for them inside our home and they stand as a constant reminder of what our responsibility is in this world:  agents of peace, peacemakers, as we've been called to.  I think that means giving up our rights, or the need to be right, in so many circumstances.  I think it means finding ways to get people talking with each other, to work toward compromise and understanding.  It means speaking less, and listening more, and being more inclusive in how we go about doing our Father's will.

So, in this week leading up to Christmas, let's determine to find an inward peace and contentment and then in the year before us, let's commit to being peacemakers, healers if you will, to the broken world around us.

10 December 2014

Michigan City: Vision to Capitalize on its History


1869 bird's-eye view of Michigan City, the Michigan Road is the main angled street not conforming to the grid
 A few years ago I met one of Michigan City's movers and shakers while developing the Historic Michigan Road Byway.  The guy had a vision for how Michigan City could reinvent itself and capitalize on its history and location on Lake Michigan.  Working with the redevelopment commission, an aggressive plan was put into action which would seek to list a major swath of the city into three National Register districts.  The city went from 0 districts to 3 in three years, the last being listed this year, in the hope that economic development would follow.

The Warren Building, under redevelopment as the new Artspace project
And it has.  Significant tax credit projects are being developed, or are under construction, that took advantage of the benefit of having the districts listed on the Register.  But the vision went far beyond just preserving old buildings-it has included the concept for creating a central arts district in the historic downtown, advocating for keeping the South Shore running through the downtown, despite efforts to reroute it.  And the vision better connects the lakefront to the downtown.  Investment in near east and west side residential districts has seen a general improvement of the neighborhoods, making them a more desirable place to live with easy access to new businesses opening up in the downtown.
First Congregational Church, 1881, on Washington Street
In 1831 Isaac Elston of Crawfordsville, Indiana purchased the land that would become Michigan City from the State of Indiana.  A year later he platted the town of Michigan City.  The new town was platted at the location surveyed by the State of Indiana in 1829 as the northern terminus of the Michigan Road, though the road was not constructed through LaPorte County until 1834.  The road connected Madison, on the Ohio River, with what was believed would be the best harbor on Lake Michigan for the state.  The mouth of Trail Creek at Lake Michigan was thought to offer an adequate harbor although only small boats were able to moor until improvements were made in the harbor between 1836 and 1852.  The first settlers arrived in 1833 and by 1836 over 3,000 people lived in Michigan City.  By 1880 the population was over 7,000 and it more than doubled to 14,850 by 1900.

The former Zorn Brewery complex, c. 1870, in the Elston Grove District
The three districts include Elston Grove, named by the town's founder, on the east side of the downtown from Michigan (Road) Street to Pine Street.  The Franklin Street District is the historic central commercial corridor once revamped as one of those nasty 1970s pedestrian malls, but now the heart of the arts district.  The third district is the Haskell-Barker District on the downtown's west side, stretching to the street bordering the outlet mall, and named for the former train car manufacturer in the city.  The three districts, combined, now have nearly 600 buildings that are eligible to receive rehabilitation tax credits.  The two most promising large projects include the Warren Building, an Artspace studio/residential venture in the downtown, and the former Zorn Brewery on the old Michigan Road, which is being considered for an upscale spa.

This is what happens when a community rallies around its historic resources = economic development.

03 December 2014

Sweitzer Barn on the Van Reed Farm, Warren County

Levi Van Reed House, Warren County
 I had the great fortune of writing a National Register nomination for the Levi Van Reed farm of Warren County, Indiana. Here is a little history of the family and what makes the farm unique. The Van Reed family moved to Pine Township, organized in 1830, when they purchased this property in 1856.  It's unclear if Levi Van Reed constructed the house or other buildings on the property given his former occupation in Mississippi as a carpenter.  Van Reed was elected to the board of Warren County Commissioners in 1867.  He served one three-year term, after which he retired to his farm.  His wife Amelia died in 1873 and Levi died in 1877.  Both are buried in the cemetery that the Barto family, from whom they purchased the farm, established in the 1830s.  The cemetery is located southeast of the farmstead and is known as the Van Reed cemetery due to the number of Van Reed family interments at the cemetery.

Sweitzer barn on the Van Reed farm
After Levi’s death the farming operations were carried out by his sons John and Levi, Jr.  The vast estate was divided among Levi’s living children, each receiving hundreds of acres.  Levi Van Reed, Jr. inherited the family farmstead which included 240 acres on either side of Old U.S. 41.  Levi Van Reed, Jr. was born in 1860, likely at the farmstead.  In 1895, the Levi Van Reed, Jr. family retired from farming and moved to Williamsport where they were involved in other business interests.


Spoon mold on the farm.....just kidding, what a great splash block design!
The barn is a great example of a type of German bank barn known as a Sweitzer barn.  Its origins are decidedly Pennsylvanian, like those of the Van Reed family.  It is the only example of a Sweitzer barn and one of only three bank barns in the county .  The size and quality of construction of the barn relate to the prosperity realized by the Van Reed family’s agricultural pursuits.  The barn has four bays and is considered large for the time period and region in which it was constructed.  German bank barns are divided into two types:  Pennsylvania and Sweitzer.  In a Pennsylvania barn, the peak is centered on the gable while the Sweitzer barn's ridge is off-centered, like that of old salt-box style homes of New England.  These are pretty rare in Indiana, and the Van Reed barn has an impressive charm sitting in the pasture on the edge of a rolling hill.  The house is an impressive example of Greek Revival style architecture, with some Italianate influence, all neatly apportioned to an I-house.  The farm was a great save by Indiana Landmarks.

26 November 2014

Saybrooke or Starbucks?


So I'm trying to embrace by English roots now that I've learned my DNA results and I'm a great deal more English than German, and even less so-Irish.  I've been running down several branches of my family tree and one that has eluded me is that of the Chapman family who moved into Marshall County during the 1840s.  We've heard stories of Dr. Clarke Chapman, who graduated from LaPorte Medical School and rode horseback from his farm north of Argos to make house calls.  And through research we found that his father, Ezekiel, lived in Argos as well.  And the most fabled of family lore, was that Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman was a cousin who visited their farm.  That never quite added up, but I had always hit a brick wall with any information earlier than Ezekiel, who lived in New York state.

But in my recent research I was able to connect a more senior Ezekiel to my Indiana pioneer, which led to a third Ezekiel in Connecticut, which led to the Chapmans of Saybrooke, Connecticut, who founded the town in 1635.  Robert I came to America in 1635 from England and founded the town, his son, Robert II, and grandson, Robert III, lived and died in the New England town.  The founder's grave is now unmarked, but his son's grave, my great x9 grandfather, is still marked with a stone that has one of the region's famously carved designs-a stylized primitive angel.  I shared the photo with a friend and he immediately responded that it looked like the Starbuck's logo.  Huh...kinda.  I found   that most Chapmans trace their roots to Robert I, likely Johnny Appleseed does too....but I haven't found that yet.  Several more interesting stories have surfaced as well, but yet a few ancestors continue to elude me.


On this Thanksgiving eve, as I delved into the richness of our country's history reaching back to its foundations, I wonder what we are leaving in our wake.  What will those who come after us say of our generation?  For nearly 400 years we built, cleared, prospered and can be truly thankful for much.  But for what will the generations that follow be thankful to our generation?  I hope it's more than limitless Starbucks.

19 November 2014

Hagel des Vaterlandes

St. Stephens Cemetery, Dearborn County, IN
 And this is why I was surprised by my less-than-overwhelming German DNA results.

I took my mom and her sister on a whirlwind genealogical tour across the U.S. 6 corridor in three northern Indiana counties a few weeks ago.  In preparation for the trip, I plugged a few names of ancestors into findagrave.com.  Yes, it is for-real.  I knew that my great x3 grandfather had been born in Bavaria and came with his parents to the United States in the 1830s, first settling in Dearborn County, Indiana.  Jacob Ewald followed the love of his life to northern Indiana, while his parents and several siblings remained in Dearborn County.  I did not know where his parents were buried, so I plugged in their names and found that the cemetery was just off the beaten path to Madison, which is where my wife and I were planning to spend our anniversary.

My wife capturing a moment of me paying respect to distant family
Knowing my wife now expects to visit cemeteries on all of our family trips, I of course didn't want to disappoint her.  On our way back from Madison, we crossed county lines and went to St. Stephen's Old Church Cemetery.  Although we couldn't find Jacob's parents' stones, we did find two siblings that had died as children in the 1850s.  The stones were inscribed in German.

All of the stones in this little cemetery were inscribed in German.

All of them.


In my travels and historical research, this was a first for me.  I've been in burial grounds where a few stones were in Yiddish, German, and Greek.  One cemetery near Chesterton has several stones with inscriptions in Swedish.  But I had yet to come across a truly German enclave, like this St. Stephens community must have been for my ancestors.  I did a brief investigation of the history of the church and cemetery and could only find that the church began in about 1842 and that this township in Dearborn County had begun to be settled by "industrious" German immigrants during the middle 1800s.  My Ewald ancestors being among them.
Believed to be a tintype picture of Phillip Ewald, my great x4 grandfather, immigrant from Bavaria
In driving the winding, hilly roads to their resting place, and as I peered out across the broad green valley, I wondered if this felt like home to them.  I wondered how Phillip, the patriarch, felt leaving the rest of his family behind.  No wonder the small group of German Lutherans clung together upon reaching the new land.  The Ewald line represents my family's most recent arrivals to this country.  These Germans continued to carry their language with them, first to St. Joseph County and then to Bremen in Marshall County, where a large German population also settled.  They continued the use of their language into the 1900s with sermons preached in the language of their Vaterland.

12 November 2014

The Results are IN!


Inspired by the PBS program "Finding Your Roots", and trying to resolve an internal debate about some family lore, I simply asked for a DNA kit from Ancestry.com for my birthday this year.  A vile full of spit and a few weeks later, my ancestral-origin profile arrived.


My grandfather, sometimes with seriousness, and other times in jest, claimed that we had Native American blood.  In my genealogical research, I haven't found that native link-but some lines got blurred in Virginia, so I thought it was possible.  When grandpa had us grandkids "on the hook" he'd tell us we were part Blackfoot, to which he'd take off his sock and show us the bottom of his dirty foot.  That should have clued me in.  More believable was his story that he knew that the first to carry our name in the New World arrived with his brothers from Ireland way back.  This didn't add up to what became pretty overwhelming probability that the first of my namesake came from Germany during the Revolution, and dropped the "t" from his name so that it sounded more Anglicized.

Plight of the Spanish Armada
Then there was this little matter of my paternal grandmother, who was a Bryant, and her lineage came up through Kentucky in the 1830s.  Family tradition is that we were "Black Irish".  Never heard that term?  Black Irish is a term used for people with darker complexions and hair from the Emerald Isle, and at least one theory suggests they were descended from survivors of the Spanish Armada that wrecked off the coast of Ireland.  BUT at the first inaugural family reunion in 2012, my aunt, the eldest member of that family unit, brought a photo album of the Bryants and some family members appeared so dark-skinned, that we wondered if the black in Black Irish, might have actually been, well,  Black and Irish.  My aunt quickly closed the photo album.

Destruction of the Armada
So there was a part of me that thought my regions of origin could have looked like a smorgasbord of ethnic groups.  Based on my research though, I thought it would be more likely that about 50% or more would be German, and the remaining but likely minority amount would be English-Irish.  Have I built up the suspense enough?

Yup, about as Anglo as they come.
How about 49% English-Scottish and 34% German-Alsace region.  The remaining amount included only 2% Irish (say what?) which was as much as the percentage of Eastern European Jew.  I don't know that the last surprised me.  I did get a full 6% of Iberian peninsula, which could relate back to the whole Black Irish-minus the Irish evidently.  Well, I'm about as white as they come...a friend said I'd get lost in a snowstorm.  How boring.  I have to rethink the concept that the first of my namesake dropped the "t" and that maybe some aspect of Gramp's story was true-just not Ireland, more like England.  Geesh, England's never really even held any fascination for me.  S'pose I'll have to follow the Royals now.

05 November 2014

It's Official!



Many thanks to everyone who has believed in me, supported me, and continues to stand by me and our community.  Now let's get to work!

03 November 2014

Fall into our State Parks

Versailles State Park, est. 1934
It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let the pictures do the talking in this post.  Fall at Indiana's state parks.  We owe quite a debt to our forefathers for setting aside these lands and establishing our state park system in 1916.

Potato Creek State Park, est. 1977
Kankakee State Fish & Wildlife Area, est. 1927
Tippecanoe River State Park, est. 1943

Brown County State Park, est. 1929
Clifty Falls State Park, est. 1920
Harmonie State Park, est. 1966





29 October 2014

A Cigar you can Bank on



Bankable cigars.  I'm not even sure what that means.  But it's patented and belonged to the N. N. Smith Company out of Frankfort, Indiana.  In a recent research project in Lebanon, just down the road from Frankfort, I came across a handsome building near its courthouse square that had the company name engraved high above its entry.


I had never heard of the company before, and so I went googling, as I often do just to see what's out there while researching and suddenly a number of photos of old cigar boxes popped up.  Mr. Noah Smith's "bankable cigar" was patented in 1917.  He built a cigar manufacturing facility in Frankfort in 1919, "the Bankable Building", and then expanded with a second building, remarkably similar to his Frankfort plant, in Lebanon in about 1926.  The production capacity of the company reached 125,000 cigars daily.  That just seems crazy.

Smith sold his interest to an intermediate manufacturer, until it was sold again to a firm known as the National Cigar Company in 1943.  That company began production of a few cigar lines with names tied to Indiana including the "Lincoln Highway" and the "Hoosier Poet" which featured James Whitcomb Riley on the box.  The company still exists in Frankfort, running production out of the old Bankable Building:  http://www.broadleafcigars.com/tour.htm.

I can't help but think of my grandpa and the smell of cigar smoke writing this one.

22 October 2014

Hymn 520 in the 900th Post


Earlier this year my aunt handed down to me a few family heirlooms, books mostly, that belonged to my Moore ancestors.  Of the small collection, the oldest is a chunky little book of Methodist hymns printed in 1829 from the collection  of John Wesley.  It is well-worn with a leather cover and tiny print.  There are a total of 606 hymns packed into this tiny book, of which I know but a small handful-maybe a half-dozen.  There is no music, only lyrics, which causes me to wonder what the unknown hymns sound like.  It makes me imagine my great x4 grandfather, Andrew Moore, standing and leading his congregation from this little book on the edge of the Indiana prairie in the 1830s.

Scouring the index for hymns I would know, I noticed that they are categorized into themes including birthdays, funerals, and Christmas.  And since this is my birthday-time-of-the-year, I thought I would include one of the two birthday hymns in my blog post today.  So, in celebrating 46 years in this my 900th post, a hymn I make my prayer.

Hymn 520, verses 1, 3, 6
Rev. Kingsworth

God of my life, to Thee
My cheerful soul I raise!
Thy goodness bade me be,
And still prolongs my days
I see my natal hour return,
And bless the day that I was born.

Long as I live beneath,
To Thee O let me live!
To Thee my every breath
In thanks and praises give!
Whate'er I have, whate'er I am,
Shall magnify my Maker's Name.

Then when the work is done,
The work of faith and power,
Receive thy favour'd son,
In death's triumphant hour,
Like Moses to thyself convey,
And kiss my raptur'd soul away.

15 October 2014

the Orchard

The first two (and only two) apples produced from Sycamore Hill Orchard this year-they tasted better than they looked
When I was a kid, the months of September and October came with the expectation that not less than a few days would be spent at Lemert's Orchard, just south of Teegarden, Indiana, picking apples with my grandfather.  Gramps set up a crate-making assembly line in the garage at the truckstop and often traded the crates he built for apples at Lemerts.  I recall riding in the back of his pick-up to the orchard and back, some 15 miles round-trip....something you can't do today.  And I recall stopping briefly at the cider press at the orchard farmstead and drinking amber goodliness out of an old tin cup they had strung to the press.  Recently I came across one of the crates gramps made, that my dad had placed on the brush pile, its in my garage now.

A few of last year's peach crop-none this year
When we moved to Sycamore Hill I determined to set out a small orchard for ourselves.  A year later we placed a dozen trees in the ground....and, with fierce competition from the deer, most survived.  Last year we picked a full bushel basket off the peach tree, and this year-which was pitiful for fruit crops-we pulled the first apples from a tree (2 apples to be exact).  The grape vines I set out are doing exceptionally well-our second season of canning juice completed last month.

2013 vintage grape juice
Last week I visited a friend in Culver and our conversation turned to the orchard industry that was thriving on the east shore of Lake Maxinkuckee during most of the 20th century, right up until the last decade.  One remnant orchard remains along 18th Road, the trees unpruned and now competing for room against an onslaught of brush filling the once neatly mowed paths of the orchard.  Since I have a project in that area that revolves around the old Lake Maxinkuckee Orchard, my curiosity was piqued when he started asking questions about an old foundation on what was once the Vonnegut Orchard.  So we took a long hike and found what appears to be the foundation of a caretakers cottage built about 100 years ago.  The cottage would have looked out over the vast orchard once managed by the Vonnegut (yes, Kurt Vonnegut) family who summered at the lake.

Believed to be the caretaker's cottage steps on the former Vonnegut Orchard
Standing there, imagining what it must have looked like, smelled like, hearkened back for me days standing in the midst of Lemerts Orchard, taking a big bite out of a Yellow Delicious and letting the juice run down my arm.  Years later, something in me still wanted that experience so I would stop and pick up a bag of apples in the fall at our local farm market, and eat not less than one on my trip back to college in Michigan.  A few years ago my daughter wanted that apple-picking experience and we were hard-pressed to find an orchard, let along one that would let you pick from their trees.
Our 2009 trip to the orchard
I don't think it's a matter of waxing nostalgic when I say I wish for yesterday, at least as far as this matter is concerned.  I think it's a basic instinct to want a stronger connection to the land, to understand the seed, the tree, the food of which you partake.  I think it's something our Creator put in us.  Maybe that's why fall harvest time has us longing for something we seek out in pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and the like.  Enjoy this time of the year.  I know I do.

08 October 2014

Then Pennsylvania Railroad in Warsaw, Indiana

A view along the Pennsylvania Railroad and Jefferson Street, in Warsaw, in c. 1910.  The depot is on the right and the Haines Hotel is on the left.
 The Pennsylvania Railroad through Warsaw, Indiana has a great collection of railroad structures.  Due to the alignment's push down the middle of a four block section of Jefferson Street, an urban "vista" is produced that is one of the nicest feeling, step-back-into-time sorta experiences one could have on the Pennsy.  A steel girder truss bridge forms a viaduct unlike any other along this route.  The viaduct formed at Columbia Street was a product of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation erected in 1929.  Most of the Pennsy's viaducts have a single span with no intermediate supports, only the stone abutments.  At Columbia Street the railroad provided for pedestrian walkways with a steel frame that separates the road from the sidewalk.  And then they did the unthinkable, they incorporated a bit of flare in the design with half-arched brackets to support the girders.
The viaduct at Columbia Street.  A plaque in the upper right corner indicates it was built in 1929.
This type of steel girder truss bridge on stone abutments is pretty common along the route.  Most date to about 1890-1905.  The design of the late arrival at Columbia Street I think shows the building success and popularity of the railroad in the public's mind.....the structure became a piece of civic pride.  Sanborn fire insurance maps indicate there was a steel bridge at this location as early as 1892; a similar viaduct on the Pennsy was enlarged in Plymouth in about 1890.

Detail of the 1929 bridge
 It was an exceptionally cold and snowy day on our Pennsylvania Railroad structures reconnaissance mission.  Which was unfortunate because I probably could have hung out in the four block Jefferson Street section for awhile waiting for a train to come through-just to get a sense of what it was like.  Unlike most of the locations along the Pennsy in Indiana, the alignment's routing down the middle of a street, or the street's alignment straddling the railroad (which came first, I do not know) provided an opportunity for commercial establishments to locate immediately on the route.

Same view as the old post card, but from the opposite direction
 In this view, facing east, the railroad constructed their depot (on the left and below) in 1893.  The 1892 Sanborn map of this location shows an empty plot of land with "depot to be built here".  Across the street the Haines family constructed a hotel (right side) shortly after the depot was built.  Brick pavers still form the platform around the depot from which people boarded the train, though the canopy is long gone.  The style applied to the depot came to dominate design for new depots constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  It has Colonial formality but borrows from Victorian-era Queen Anne design as well.

The Penn Depot, 1893, in Warsaw today.
 The house below screams railroad hotel or boarding house.  It is a great example of Italianate design, a style whose popularity rose with the economic boon most towns experienced with the coming of the railroad era.  Since the Pennsy was built in 1856, the bones of this old place may go back to as early as c. 1865.  It is located further west of the depot and viaduct.  And you can see in this picture, it had started to snow.

Another possible railroad boarding house, c. 1865, west of Columbia Street.